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Press boss Jimmy Lai was arrested Monday on suspicion of collusion with foreign forces. Shortly after, dozens of Hong Kong police carried out a search of the premises of the Apple Daily, one of its properties.

New step in the muscular recovery of Hong Kong by Beijing: the Hong Kong magnate Jimmy Lai was arrested at his home around 7 a.m. Monday, August 10 (11 p.m. GMT, Sunday), Mark Simon, one of his close associates, told AFP, adding that other members of his press group had also been arrested.

In a statement, police reported seven arrests on suspicion of collusion with foreign forces – one of the offenses targeted by the national security law that was imposed at the end of June by Beijing – and fraud.

Seen as a response from Beijing to the months of pro-democracy protests that rocked the former British colony in 2019, the law gives authorities new powers to crack down on four types of crimes against state security: subversion, separatism, terrorism and collusion with outside forces.

Live footage of the search

Jimmy Lai is the boss of Next Media, which includes the Apple Daily and the magazine Next, two titles openly pro-democracy and critical of Beijing.

His press group was raided in the name of the controversial security law. At the end of the morning, dozens of police arrived at headquarters, in an industrial area in the Lohas Park district (south-east). Apple Daily reporters broadcast footage of the search live on Facebook. In the footage, the editor of the daily Law Wai-kwong appears asking the police for their warrant.

“Tell your colleagues not to touch anything until our lawyers check the warrant,” their intimate Mr. Law.

Police officers ordered reporters to stand up and line up for identity checks, as others searched the newsroom. And Mr. Lai was brought to the scene.

Mr. Simon said on Twitter that searches had also taken place at the home of the magnate and that of his son.

Accused many times of collusion with foreign powers

For many Hong Kongers engaged in the pro-democracy movement, Mr. Lai is a hero, a tabloid boss who has built his fortune alone, and the only Hong Kong press boss who stands up to the Chinese central power. Conversely, the Chinese state media regularly qualify him as a “traitor”, accusing him of being the instigator of the 2019 protest.

Charges of collusion with a foreign power redoubled last year, when Mr. Lai met with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Vice President Mike Pence. He then brushed aside these accusations, explaining that Hong Kong people had the right to meet foreign politicians.

Two weeks before the security law was imposed on Hong Kong, Mr. Lai told AFP he was “ready” to go to jail. “If necessary, I will be able to read books that I have not read,” he said.

In his interview with AFP at the end of June, he explained that the security law would “spell the end of Hong Kong” and said he feared that the authorities would prosecute his journalists.

With AFP

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